Stuart Broad insists England will be fully prepared for Australia as the hosts look to live up to the unfamiliar billing of pre-Ashes series favourites.
The 27-year-old has only ever known success in Test series against England’s great rivals, having been part of the victorious squads on these shores in 2009 and Down Under just over a year later, and Broad is not uneasy with the notion that Australia have arrived as underdogs, as many pundits have predicted.
Instead, the Nottinghamshire seamer believes Alastair Cook’s side must retain a healthy respect for their opponents while maximising their own skills before the first ball of an intriguing five-match duel is sent down at Trent Bridge on Wednesday.
“It’s the first time in my lifetime that England have gone into an Ashes series as favourites, but it’s not the first time we’ve gone into a series as favourites,” Broad told a press conference.
“We’ve played some really good cricket over the past four, five years so there have been series where we’ve gone in with that favourites tag.
“But, again, you go back to your principles as a side. Whatever the expectation, whatever the tag you get in the team, it doesn’t really matter because it’s about getting the ball in the right area. Whether you’re favourites, whether you’re complete underdogs - if you apply pressure to the opposition side you stand a very good chance that they’ll crack.
“That’s very much the attitude the England team are going into next week with. We focus on our strengths and on our super strengths. We talk about what we do well. We build ourselves up as a team and that’s the best way for us to get the best performance out of ourselves.”
In years gone by Australia may have held the psychological edge over England but, perhaps unsurprisingly given his excellent record in these clashes, Broad suggested fear does not come into the equation.
“We certainly don’t fear them,” added Broad, who produced a player-of-the-match performance during a devastating spell with the ball when he claimed 5-37 during the last Ashes Test in England.
“We respect the Australian side; we know the dangers they have. You look through the batting line-up; it’s hard to argue that Michael Clarke’s not the best Test batter in the world. The likes of Shane Watson are hugely powerful players.”
The tourists also have the potential to surprise given Darren Lehmann will be at the helm following Mickey Arthur’s axing last month and Nottingham Forest fan Broad acknowledges a change in personnel can often produce dividends for football teams.
“We certainly know that, in football terms, a change of coach brings an improved performance. It’s proven in the football world,” he added.
“But you always have to be aware of what your opposition are doing. We’ve not had our tactical meeting as of yet; that’s the only time we sort of focus on the opposition.
“This week’s been completely about us as an England cricket team, about making sure our skills are 100 per cent right for Wednesday because, at the end of the day, what’s happened 10 minutes before the toss, four weeks before the toss, come Wednesday morning it’s about who takes a sharp slip chance, who gets the ball in the right areas, who’s mentally strong enough to keep the good balls out and hit the bad balls for four. That’s our focus as a team.”
Broad declared himself “100 per cent fit” ahead of the opener on his home ground despite missing the LV= Challenge victory over Essex due to a slight shoulder injury he sustained pushing his body to the limits in the agonising Champions Trophy final defeat to India .
And England will be glad to have Broad available as he looks to make it three Ashes series victories out of three.